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Sexism and Salsa

Women are infiltrating the workplace at an alarming rate. Who can doubt that gender equality has been well and truly achieved when women make up 47% of the UK workforce? And it’s not just grunt work either, they’re actually leading. More women than ever are taking the top positions in the world’s most successful companies. In fact the proportion of female directors in the FTSE 100 is at an all-time high at…17.3%. Really? Well what of the Fortune 500? There, women make up…16.9% of board seats and 14.6% of CEOs. Hmm.

Perhaps they’re faring better in politics. Sure enough, the number of women MPs has never been so high. There are 147 in total which translates to just over…22% of the total. Well, at least we had a lady PM once!

Admittedly it’s an improvement on previous years and decades but still, celebration seems a bit premature. Before I gripe too much I should give credit where credit’s due and acknowledge that the UK has come a long way in a relatively short time. After all, it’s been less than a century since women were even afforded equal voting rights. The fact that any have made it into top leadership positions is surely one up for the good guys, right?

Maybe, or maybe there’s some basic groundwork that we’ve missed out on somewhere down the line. The idea of women leading may not seem so strange anymore but it’s still certainly very far from the norm. I have spent some time wondering why this is and recently, one possible answer struck me from an odd direction.

Some of you may know that I’ve developed a love for salsa. Despite being told by a number of people that it’s solely the purview of fifty-year old housewives, I enjoy nothing more than heading down to my local salsa club on a Sunday night and spinning about the floor in my shiny, shiny dance shoes.

However, recently, I was troubled by a rather uncomfortable thought. Despite having danced for a while now (and developed sufficient skills to avoid giving most of my partners black eyes) I have no idea how to follow.

In salsa, and indeed all partner dancing, it is simply the case that the male leads and the female follows. The man has near complete control over every move performed and it is his will, his whims that the woman bends and spins to.

Now, lest I be accused of only telling half the story, I should note that, among the group I dance with, there are a good number of women who know how to lead and frequently do so with great skill. However, it’s notable when such an event occurs it’s often not preceded with the phrase ‘I’ll lead’ but rather ‘I’ll be the man’. More worryingly, outside of a teaching environment, I have never seen a man follow. And yet this is accepted as perfectly fine and normal and few people, if any, bat an eyelid.

I began to wonder why this was and took to the internet for answers. Yahoo and Wikipedia provided little enlightenment, attributing it to ‘etiquette’. Unfortunately, ‘etiquette’ is merely a  fancy word for ‘tradition’ stating merely that ‘this is how things are done’ without giving any reason as to why.

Then, I came across this article which purported to give some answers. Have a brief skim before continuing.

My first reaction was one of puzzlement as many of the arguments seemed not only confused but blatantly false.

The first argument, that ‘someone has to lead’, is just silly. Of course someone has to lead and someone has to follow, I doubt anyone would argue otherwise. The relevant question is why should the role be necessarily attached to the partner’s gender and fixed for every single dance?

The author attempts to provide some answers to this. He follows up with the facts that women are generally weaker and shorter than men, and that them leading could result in damage and injury to both parties. In my admittedly limited experience, this still seems rather dubious.

Now, I’m not the most beefy guy, in fact I’m positively weedy, but I have still managed to drop women of my height and taller while causing very little injury (which I blame on my technique rather than my strength). In fact, I actually find it less convenient to dance with a much shorter partner than someone of equal or greater height as our differing reaches tend to result in awkward contortions.

Still, it may be true that there are a few moves which short and weak women would be unable to pull off. However, the very same would be true of short and weak men. A few extreme cases seem an odd foundation on which to build a convention.

I could go further and examine arguments six through ten but rather than doing that I’d like you to do me a favour. Read through the article’s headings again and imagine that instead of talking about partner dancing, the author’s talking about men and women’s roles in the workplace. I’ll wait.

I’ll admit that it might take some jiggling of verbs and adjectives for the point to become salient but in case you missed it here’s where I stand:

Even if masculine and feminine styles of dance (or management) are markedly distinct and worth preserving as such, there seems little to no reason to attach all but complete control to one gender exclusively. In fact, I would argue that doing so is purposefully harmful.

Even if it is aesthetic for men to present as strong and firm, for women to be pretty and wiggly, what does absolute control of one gender over the other really convey? For all the talk of ‘collaboration’ it is still excruciatingly clear who chooses the direction, the rhythm, whether to come together and break apart. Why should we accept this inequality in our social lives if we wouldn’t at work or at home?

Finally, let’s finally take look at point five from the article. This, I think, is the most abhorrent line of reasoning in the whole piece, more so because it represents a destructive notion present in the back of many modern minds, both male and female. Good old Lloyd says quite openly that men and women learning each other’s parts would result in twice the work and half the attainment. In short, that a lack of distinction between our roles would result in all of us being worse off overall.

This ‘separate but equal’ rhetoric has been applied to many causes over the years, most far worse than this one. But even leaving the grotesque undertones aside, the argument is obviously false. I can’t imagine any universe where walking a mile in another’s shoes (be they high heels or flats) would result in anything less than understanding and improvement. I wholeheartedly believe that if I were to spend some time following I would gain whole new perspective on how I should lead. And no, I’m not just talking about dancing.

In short, when we talk about equality we often limit our discussion to public spheres: education, employment, politics. All too rarely do we examine what we’re doing privately, and we really should. It’s not our legal and human rights that define who we are but our hobbies, our interests, our innermost thoughts and it is these that determine how we behave towards others. And it’s because of this fact, we should take extra care with anything that might lead us to believe that an imbalanced state of  affairs is in any way acceptable.

I, for one, know that despite everything I’ve said here, if a woman were to try to lead me when I next go dancing, I would be completely embarrassed, even emasculated and all because I’d temporarily surrender the control that has always been my privilege. But I wonder, what would I think of the matter if I had learned to follow as well as lead from day one? That niggling challenge to my manhood might not exist, I might understand my partners better, and, who knows, my dancing might be even more phenomenal.

Harking back to the start of this post, I’ll restate my initial puzzle: Why, in our modern and progressive society, don’t more women lead? Surely the answer is another question: Why should there be, if men don’t know how to follow?

Existential Daisies

A few days ago I was in London’s centre and found myself staring at a field of daisies. One might think ‘field’ a rather strong term, but I was down there to look at flats and can assure you that by London standards this was the most glorious of meadows.

In any case, I had some downtime and found myself meditating on one daisy in particular. There was nothing particularly special about it. Its stem was bent, its flower was asymmetric and it was definitely not the tallest. Yet, it was the one closest to me and was right in the centre of my field of vision.

I found myself examining it in great detail, every inch of the stem and every browning satin petal. After a few minutes I could have told you everything there was to know about this daisy. I knew it intimately that if someone had come and plucked it (or the yappy Pomeranian running about had pissed on it) I would have been very put out.

After a while I realised how odd I looked and straightened up to pretend to be vaguely normal. But as I did so, my senses were assaulted. I truly noticed for the first time the entire field of daisies, realised for the first time that each was as detailed and whole as the one that had occupied my attention for so long.

I hate to think what the Pomeranian’s attractive owner might have thought when she saw my eyes widen as my senses were overloaded. Luckily, she was too preoccupied with her phone to notice.

Over the next half hour I pondered and as I did I realised that there were about a hundred different ways I could frame my experience, each with its own distinct flavour.

I could consider it a bitter metaphor for how self-centred we are, that although every person is as unique and different as each daisy in the field, they all blend into the background as we focus on ourselves above all others.

It could be a despairing realisation about the futility of seeking knowledge. I had spent so long studying one subject, and only at the end of my incredibly specific study had I discovered that there was a practical infinity of facts to be learned solely in my field of vision. How does a man with a thirst for knowledge live? In an infinite library filled with every answer to every question, what book should one pick up first?

Recalling something philosophical from my undergraduate years, I substituted space for time and imagined that all the daisies before me were in fact distinct temporal instances of the same individual subject. On the Humean view of the self, we are not the same bundle of experiences in one moment as we are in the next, so how can we claim that a constant Self is anything but an illusion? Suddenly, the daisies became illustrative of the most severe existential crisis as I became aware of my infinite plurality and hence my non-existence. But then that moment passed and I was no longer that discontent person.

Reflecting on the first thought, I saw that there was a moral lesson to be had. Perhaps if we attempted to acknowledge each person as closely as we acknowledge ourselves, understanding that each has their own desires, beliefs, emotions, we would perhaps better understand the consequences of our actions, and act more kindly towards our fellows. But how then to cope with that horrific impact, that multiplication of despair when we suddenly realise the true loss and tragedy when thousands die from an earthquake or flood? To connect with all as closely as we connect with ourselves would surely be fatal to our psyche.

At this point my alarm sounded and reminded me that I had another viewing to get to. I banished my musings and attempted to steel myself for the confines of the tube journey I’d have to endure shortly. I saw with relief that the Pomeranian had left with her owner and my daisy had been left unmolested.

As I walked to the park’s exit I looked back at the dank patch of grass and saw nothing but some blurry patches of white. They were only daisies after all.

The Father’s Day Lottery

I encountered a strange offer a couple of weeks ago. While grocery shopping I was solicited to buy a lottery ticket (with the jackpot valued at £2.2 million), not for myself, but as a father’s day gift. Naturally, I dismissed the offer and went on my merry way but as I did so something nagged at me.

Who on earth would buy a lottery ticket for someone else?

Now, I say this not because a lottery ticket is a terrible gift (although it is) but because I could think of no line of reasoning which would allow someone to think this is a rational action, regardless of their prior beliefs about the lottery.

Let’s imagine person X, who, although being a rational agent, has no understanding of probability and so doesn’t know that expected value of a lottery ticket is infinitesimally close to zero.

X can expect one of two things.

a) That his ticket will lose.

b) That his ticket will win.

In scenario a) gifting this lottery ticket to his father is akin to handing him a receipt. X has simply wasted money which could have been better spent a Father’s day card. This would of course communicate a far better sentiment than a useless scrap of paper.

I find scenario b) far more troubling. Gifting this ticket would be the equivalent of X giving his father £2.2 million. Now, I love my father as much as any son, but I certainly wouldn’t give him £2.2 million as a Father’s day gift (sorry dad). X here either possesses an unrivalled level of filial devotion, or is attempting to make amends for being the primary drain on his father’s finances for his entire life.

For my entire walk home I struggled with this question, feeling very inferior as I imagined the kind of son who would casually drop his dad enough money for a small yacht. My confusion only increased when I realised that the lotto promoters clearly thought there were enough of these sons to constitute a market.

However, by the time I’d reached my flat and put my groceries away, I realised that I had neglected something important, namely the expectations of the receiving party.

Let’s once again make the dubious assumption that X is a rational agent and assume that his father, hereby referred to as Y, is also one. Let’s also assume that X is sufficiently knowledgeable about his father’s beliefs about the lottery. The following options exist.

a) X and Y believe that the ticket will win.

b) X believes that the ticket will win and Y believes that it will lose.

c)  X and Y believe that the ticket will lose.

d) X believes that the ticket will lose and Y believes that it will win.

Scenario a) still makes little sense to me. Despite the fact that X is now assured that his father will appreciate the gift of £2.2 million, it still seems rather excessive a gift. Not to mention, this is father’s day we’re talking about. How does X think he’s going to top this gift when his father’s birthday rolls around?

Strangely enough, b) makes more sense as although X expects his father to be disappointed at the useless gift he’s been given, he also expects to be vindicated when his father does eventually win. Whether a sense of smug satisfaction is worth the over £2 million that could have been his is still up for debate of course.

I’d like to believe that somewhere, come this week’s lottery, scenario c) will occur. X watches his father excitedly rip open the envelope only to see his smile fade into a puzzled frown. The father’s eyes slowly rise to meet his son’s who, in turn, stares at him blankly. Ten awkward seconds pass then, finally, X speaks. ‘Happy Father’s Day’ he whispers contemptuously, before stealing all the food in the fridge and running out the house.

And that leaves us with d) which strikes me as by far the most plausible scenario. X spends a paltry two pounds and watches as his father bursts into tears of surprise and joy. After all, Dad believes that his son (who he’d always assumed to be an ungrateful little prick) values their relationship at over £2 million.

For the following days, X is treated like a king. He’s waited on hand and foot by his parents, he sits at the head of the table and his little sister’s college fund is plundered to buy him a Lexus. Meanwhile Daddy dearest is completely overcome with gratitude and guilt for having ever considered kicking him out the house (in spite of the fact X is over 30 and unemployed).

Then, at last the fateful evening comes. The family gathers in front of the telly: Mother’s wringing her hands nervously, little sister’s sulking on the floor filling in food service job applications and Dad’s planted firmly in the centre of the couch, held rapt by Gaby Roslin’s chirpy preamble. His ticket clasped firmly in his left hand, his son hugged tightly by his right. Gaby hands over to the disembodied Alan who announces the jackpot to a fanfare! Dad’s grip tightens on X’s shoulder, and his eyes fill with tears again.

The drums begin to pound, Lancelot starts to spin and the balls drop and churn. Dad’s chest is heaving. His son’s devotion (which he’d questioned ever since that incident with the wasps and the metal detector) is finally going to be confirmed. No longer will he have to slave away in his nine-to-five job packing boxes at the cog factory. He’ll quit tomorrow and retire to Florida with Mother. That’ll save their dying marriage. They’ll find somewhere on the coast. Nowhere too fancy, just enough room for the two of them and a guest bedroom for their loving son of course, who’ll no doubt visit them every year. He’ll buy a boat and spend his days deep-sea fishing while Mother joins a country club and rediscovers her passion for painting. They’ll be so happy, perhaps she’ll even let him…


He snaps out of his daydream and glares at his daughter, but before he can reproach her for ruining his daydream he sees the concern on her face. He wheels round to look at Mother whose face has drained to a deathly white. His stomach drops as his head slowly turns towards the T.V. The music’s stopped, Gabby’s chirping again and the life-changing numbers are lined at the bottom of the screen. He doesn’t understand at first. This can’t be right. He knew he was going to win. But slowly, confusion gives way to a cold horror. His fingers loosen and the ticket floats the floor useless and forgotten. He’s lost.

Suddenly, he becomes aware of a cold presence on his right and, like a man etherised, his head turns.

X is staring at him with cold, dead eyes. The bottom falls out of Dad’s world as he finally realises the full extent of his son’s malice. He tries to speak but all that comes out is a single despairing croak.

Then, like an awful serpent, X’s lips part. ‘Happy Father’s Day’ he whispers, before striding out the door, slamming it behind him. There’s a purr as the Lexus starts up followed by a screech as it pulls out of the drive, never to be seen again.

So, yeah. Stick to buying your dad a card.

Happy father’s day everyone!

Justifying Ignorance

I watched a video today. This one in fact. It’s a damning indictment of food marketing and battery farming delivered by an eager young presenter. She ends this wonderfully delivered speech with an accusation of willful ignorance. We, the consumer, are guilty of turning a blind eye to animal suffering, not out of horror or disgust but for the sake of convenience.

As I prepare to eat the massive bowl of fried chicken in front of me, I find myself agreeing with her. Willful ignorance is a powerful tool and it is one that we all employ daily. And its use is far wider than ignoring the plight of animals who wouldn’t exist if we didn’t find them so delicious.

Suffering is everywhere in the world. In fact, there is so much that the following issues have become cliché. There are people homeless and destitute in every major city, people constantly persecuted for reasons of race, gender and sexuality, and let’s not the starving children in Africa who remain hungry despite the efforts of Bono and Make Poverty History (still going, by the way, despite flagging wristband sales).

Why then do we as individuals not spend every minute of every day working tirelessly to solve these problems (as we no doubt would if we were ‘good’ people)? Why, of course, because we insulate ourselves with willful ignorance. Yes, occasionally we might find something that penetrates our protective layers of justification and distraction but all too often, our disgust and horror is momentary, or easily salved by sharing an article on Facebook or Tweeting (#BringBackOurGirls anyone?).

We so easily justify our inaction. In the best cases we simply absolve ourselves of responsibility telling ourselves ‘It’s not my problem, not my fault'; in darker times we might blame the victims or we might simply forget once the media has lost its taste for the tragedy.

I have my own rather convoluted justifications for my laissez-faire attitudes. I don’t give to charity (‘Not until I have a steady income’), I ignore every one of the twenty or so homeless people I pass every day (‘I can’t help all of them’) and I eat copious amounts of meat, eggs and milk (I’m rather proud of this one ‘Animals can’t be considered worthy of ethical consideration’).

Of course, I am doing many of you a disservice by comparing you to me. I am very and genuinely happy to know a large number of good people. People who volunteer abroad, who give to charity, who heal the sick, who fight tirelessly against the injustices of the world. However, willful ignorance is an insidious beast and if one searches for it, it can easily be found.

What do I mean by this? Well, how often when you buy a book, a film, a meal out, or even pay your rent, your internet, your phone bill, do you consider the impact that your spending has on those who have nothing? If it’s any less than 100% of the time then you are guilty of willful ignorance. The reason for this is that in order to prevent yourself from doing very measurable harm to others, you must remain ever vigilant.

Surely purchasing any form of entertainment is not just frivolity but harmful to those who could benefit from the money in your hand. In fact the more good you already do, the greater the evil. The less ignorant you are of the plight of others the more willful you must surely be to justify the purchases that condemn them. Did I mention that the point of this blog was to sell my book?

Now, I have no doubt that all the world’s ethicists, from the Kantians to the consequentialists have serious qualms about the above. The former will say that such self-sacrifice is irrational and the latter say it is unsustainable (do check out Effective Altruism by the way) and there is certainly weight to they say. However, there is a tacit admission behind these claims, and that is this: our ideals are too lofty for us to attain. Willful ignorance is more than just a tool to be used at our convenience, it is a part of our very nature.

We cannot blame ourselves for not giving all we should, because what we ‘should’ is very different to what we ‘can’. This reassures me greatly, however, the very fact that it does rings false. It reeks of convenience. Isn’t the purpose of an ideal to be something to strive towards? Shouldn’t we attempt to overcome our nature at all costs, raising ourselves from mere beasts, mere slaves to impulse to something greater, something transcendent? This is a question that I don’t want to consider right now.

I choose to stay purposefully and willfully ignorant.

Drake’s second outing and successful sequels.

I suppose those of you who’ve read ‘His Darker Eye’ and picked up on my very obvious hints at a sequel are wondering what’s happening on that front. Well, here’s what I can tell you.

Drake’s second outing is progressing well. I’ve finished the first draft leaving only the mean tasks of re-writing, editing, proofing, re-re-writing, proofing again, formatting and publication. I will not pretend to put a date on this last, partly because I don’t wish to get my readers’ hopes up but mostly because I hate deadlines.

As for what to expect, I can’t, or rather, won’t tell you much. Only to expect more from Drake, Grey and Mrs Hammersmith as they face a new villain with a mysterious ability. I can’t get much vaguer than that!

Well, since there’s so little to tell about my sequel, why don’t we talk about sequels in general?

The value and purpose of sequels are topics well and vigorously debated among those who prefer to live their life in fiction (like myself). Often, they are viewed as unnecessary or inferior additions and it strikes me that this is because of the contradicting properties they are expected to possess. Namely, that we want them to be exactly the same but completely different.

To clarify: the reason we like sequels is because we like familiarity. If we enjoy a book or a film we’re left wanting more. We want more wit, more twists and more thrills. But of course, there’s a problem. We can’t be thrilled in the same way twice. Hear a funny joke and you’ll double over laughing. Hear it again and you might crack a smile. Hear it a third time and you’ll probably grimace.

So how can sequels succeed? Well, my theory is that the answer lies in the emphasis of the original. By this I mean that most stories (regardless of their medium) can be broken down into three elements: plot, characters, and concept and, to succeed, a sequel must expand on the element that the original focused on. This is not to say that a story can’t excel at more than one or all three, but generally one element is the driving force.

Take ‘The Matrix’ for example, which I would describe this as a concept-heavy film. By this I mean not that it was difficult to grasp, but rather that it pulled you in with one simple idea: “What if your world isn’t real?” Were the characters terribly interesting? Not at all. Neo lacked a personality and once Morpheus and Trinity took off their leather and stopped speaking in riddles they became just as bland. As for the plot, ‘the rise of the chosen one’ is second only to ‘star-crossed lovers’ in overused tropes.

But this didn’t matter in the slightest. On the contrary, ‘The Matrix’s straight-forward plot and characters allowed us to engage fully with the concept. We connected with Neo’s Cartesian crisis (who didn’t go round searching for glitches after watching it?) while the ground-breaking special effects wowed us out of our existentialist funk.

The problem was that when it came to the sequel, ‘Reloaded’ offered us nothing new. It may have expanded the world and given us a few new characters (all of whom were just as mysterious and bland as the originals) but the central concept remained unchanged and unexpanded. The punchline remained the same, and altering the set-up wasn’t enough to make us chuckle.

For contrast, consider ‘Terminator 2′. Though nearly identical to its predecessor in plot, critics and fans alike consider it greatly superior. I believe that one can trace this success to one simple twist on the original formula: the Terminator’s growing humanity. Fans of the first film who loved seeing Arnie’s deadpan killing machine got exactly what they came for but also had that expectation subverted by watching the unstoppable, uncompromising monster slowly turn from a robot in a skin suit into a fully-fledged human capable of wise-cracks and self-sacrifice.

Of course, some stories are rather easier to write sequels for than others. Solely plot-driven sequels are doomed to fail as it’s nigh on impossible to replicate the sensation of a plot without making it a mere repetition of the original. Similarly for concept-driven stories, unless you pick something very rich to develop and expand, you run the risk of running dry rather quickly. However, if characters drive your story, even if all else is kept the same, your sequels will still remain interesting and novel, provided you don’t mess up the execution of course.

Consider Harry Potter, a seven book series where, despite constant injections of wonder and magic, the plot of each book was more or less the same: Voldemort’s up to no good and Harry and his friends have to do something about it. What, then, kept us reading, craving the next book as soon as we’d closed the last? It was the characters. We followed Harry, Ron and Hermione through their entire teenage years, watching them learn and grow alongside each other. Without those maturing and subtly shifting relationships I have no doubt that the magic would have worn thin by book 4.

The basic upshot of the above is that novelty can fuel a story but won’t sustain a sequel, let alone a series. When I decided to write ‘His Darker Eye’, I did so because I believed that I had found a novel device: a mysterious gentleman with a box of magical glass eyes. However, I’m very aware that if I expect anyone to read and keep reading my work that I need to offer something more than ‘a headful of magic tricks’. I very much hope that I’ll discover what that is.

Misogyny and Mass Murderers

I shall try to make this post as brief as possible and do my best not to be a hypocrite, though the latter will be quite difficult.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, last week a young man went out and shot a number of women. Since then he hasn’t left our screens. After the first round of coverage, we’d learned everything about the incident itself, courtesy of excessive news coverage by 24 hour stations, and everything about his madness, courtesy of his manifesto being published all over the web and his last YouTube video being played by every channel and website.

Then came the second round, the dissection of his motives by bloggers and news sites alike. This particular killer’s actions have been attributed to everything from misogyny, to lax gun laws to Hollywood (Judd Apatow films by the Washington Post, The Hunger Games by Rush Limbaugh).

I am not here to add to this discussion. I am here to ask that it stop. Any mention of this man’s name only elevates his infamy, making his actions more successful and inspiring others to follow in his path.

After every mass shooting, after every serial killing we go through the same three-ring circus. The first is a frenzy of voyeurism, where no blurred Facebook photo, no shaky home video of the killer is too mundane or obscure to be broadcast.

The second is an orgy of opinion, where every cause tries to claim the tragedy as a demonstration of the evils they see in society. The killer is held up as a poster boy, as either the monster the evils created or the victim of their influence.

The third is a quiet chorus that desperately asks that we not award the killer the fame he desired. It carefully goes through the undeniable evidence that our voices raised in horror and pity only serve to feed the cycle of infamy that will inevitably create the next monster.

What’s most tragic about this particular cycle is that this incident has been co-opted by causes I believe in. The #YesAllWomen campaign and feminist perspectives in general, advocates for stricter gun control and tireless advocates for the better understanding of mental illness have all weighed in and held up this man’s actions as a cause to rally behind.

I don’t doubt that for every blogger who’s only trying to promote themselves through controversy there are another five who are doing it out of genuine belief but the point remains that on many of these blogs, this man’s name is said, mostly shouted. His picture is in the header. His last video is embedded in the article.

It is these people I address when I say please, let him fade into obscurity. The causes you promote are important and worthwhile and don’t need this incident to draw attention to them. Don’t let your fervour lead to inspire the next killer and to contribute to the death of his victims.

There are better ways to promote better mental health than holding up a case like this. Feminism doesn’t need a misogynist to commit mass murder to validate its points when rape and domestic violence statistics exist. Even gun control advocates can let him become another number to bolster their cause, without having to show his face.

Let his name die and you might prevent another from taking his place.

Welcome to the Blog

I suppose it would be good form to thank for subscribing to and reading my blog. So, thank you. Now that ‘s out of the way we can get down to business.

Some (and I hope very, very few) of you might recall I already started a blog called ‘themuffledmuse’. I will now ask you to purge that from your memory. My ridiculously short-lived attempt at blogging failed miserably for an obvious reason: it was inane.

Those of you who have met me personally will know that I thrive on argument. I am wholly incapable of sustaining small talk for any longer than a couple of minutes and will take any and every opportunity to turn a conversation into a debate. As such, my attempt to be simultaneously interesting and uncontroversial was doomed to fail from the very start. Essentially, I bored myself into silence.

Now ‘Mike!’, you may well ask, ‘what does that mean for your slick new website, complete your name in the domain? What will you be posting on your blog? Your thoughts on the current pope? The evils of democracy? The pointlessness of veganism?’

Well, no, no and no, I’m afraid. At least I have no intention of doing so. I’ll be straight with you, the purpose of this site is very simple and very selfish: to promote my writing, in particular the exploits of Bartholomew Drake and Sergeant Arthur Grey (did I mention that ‘His Darker Eye’ is available on the Kindle and in paperback?).

As such, expect news of upcoming work (first and foremost, the untitled project I’m working on which shall for now be known as ‘Drake’s second outing’), the odd short story and reviews for anything I deem worth a gander.

However, if the thought of a constant stream of self-promotion makes you sick to your stomach, rest assured that I feel the same way. Therefore, in addition to the above, I shall be posting the thoughts that keep me up at night and glued to my keyboard. Some of these will no doubt be related to my work, others less obviously so. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. I can’t promise what you’ll be exposed to. Perhaps a dissection of an argument I had in a bar over Scottish Independence, maybe a rant about the sexism inherent in Western fiction (my own no doubt included), possibly some self-indulgent ramblings on the nature of stories.

Whatever it is, I shall only share it if it’s interesting, and worthy of a conversation. So please feel free to comment and tell me I’m wrong with long, eloquent answers. In fact, I demand it.

Talk to you all soon,


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© 2019 Michael Scoins